Posts tagged “food”

Noël’s War Story: Truck Stop

Noël Bankston is a UX Research Lead and Human Factors Engineer at Zebra Technologies, currently living in Queens, NY. She told this story live at the Interaction 17 conference.

“So Jim, what would you like to do for lunch? “My treat!” It was the moment I had been dreading all day, ironic since I am a lover of food. I was trying to sound chipper but I was worn through.

It was 2 pm and I was starving. I was sitting in the cab of a 48’ tractor trailer in Lowell, Arkansas. This was my first “ride along” research trip and I had not come prepared with snacks. I was doing in-depth generative research of the pick-up and delivery process for a freight company and hadn’t known that we don’t have lunch until all the deliveries were completed.

I was also not prepared for the weather as I am from up north and I thought the South would be hot in late May. It wasn’t – it was a constant drizzle and cold. So I was sitting in the cab feeling small and tired in the oversized loaner jacket that the dispatcher had given me. We had been on the road since 8:45 am but I had arrived at the trailer dispatch site even earlier to observe the set-up process. And that should have been fine, because on a normal day, Jim finishes around noon. But today we saw all the exceptions – an unprepared customer, incorrect paperwork, an obstructed delivery dock, and poor routing. As a researcher, it was a gold-mine as I observed where problems occurred and how Jim handled them. But as someone who is mildly hypoglycemic, it meant I was getting hangry. It had been a long morning of climbing into and out of that cab, learning which hand to place where to get the right leverage to pull yourself up as you step onto the step that is only wide enough for half your foot. And I don’t know how many of you have ridden inside of a tractor trailer but it is loud and you feel every bump.

In that moment as I asked about lunch, damp, tired, and hungry, I thought back on the the anxiety I had felt earlier in the day about lunch. A co-worker told me that on his previous ride-along they had eaten a burger from a gas station mini-mart. Even on a normal day that would make me uneasy, as gas stations aren’t known for freshness and hygiene. I knew that this type of research means being available for wherever the subject takes you, but I was really hoping that didn’t include food poisoning.

But at this point, 8 hours from my previous meal and having no idea what part of town we were in, who was I to be picky?

“So Jim, what would you like to do for lunch?”

“I just want a salad. I try to eat healthy.” I gave a huge sigh of relief, accompanied by a rumble of rejoicing from my stomach. It seemed that between the two of us, I would be eating the bigger meal. I found a nearby Mexican restaurant on Yelp. While enjoying the flavor combination of fresh cilantro and lime with nary a fryolator in sight, I realized how I had been making assumptions about “truckers” based on stereotypes rather than letting the research reveal the truth. And those assumptions were also judgments about health and lifestyle. Jim was aware of the health effects of his job and wasn’t going to turn down an opportunity to have a healthful meal, especially when a researcher was paying! One of the reasons truckers eat unhealthy food is both cost and convenience. Truck stops get food fast and are less expensive. Unfortunately, our food system is set up in a way that fresh, whole food costs much more than highly processed, industrially produced food.

I won’t be able to eliminate all my biases or preconceived notions but I can grow in my awareness of them. I have been on many more ride-alongs and other types of research trips since then. You better believe I always have a granola bar with me.

Ari’s War Story: Chicken Run

Ari Nave is Principal at The King’s Indian.

My very first field research was in the north of Ghana along the Volta River north of Keta Krachi, trying to unpack the usage rights and other factors that enable the sustainable use of a common pool resource (in defiance of the tragedy of the commons).

The research was hard. I was isolated, lonely, and physically drained. No one in the village spoke English. They spoke primarily Ewe and I was communicating through an interpreter. I had a feeling that I was missing a lot of nuance and detail with the interpreter and had several discussions with him about my concern.

I was also sick as hell of eating fish stew with fufu or gari. For one thing, it was spicy as hell…so spicy that at every meal I had these convulsive hiccups. This hilarity may have endeared me to my host, but the diet was monotonous.

I had spotted guinea fowl wondering around the village. I asked my host family about it and they just laughed and said they are wild animals.

So I set my mind to catch one. That evening I watched as the guinea fowl hopped up a tree in the village. They used the same tree each night and seemed to jump up in a predictable pattern.

The next evening I was prepared. I had a long string for my trap. I tied a slip knot on one end and placed the snare on a protrusion of the trunk that was chest-height, a pivotal step on their journey up the tree.

The string was about 50 feet long and I ran the length straight to another tree that I hid behind.

The folks in the village just laughed at me, which they seemed to do with great frequency. But I was determined. Patiently, I waited.

As dusk fell the fowl made their way up the tree. When the third bird was on the spot I yanked as hard and fast as I could, while running in the opposite direction. And I had the little bastard. He flapped his wings and I reeled in the string, and soon had a plump guinea fowl in my hands. My host and all the other villagers came running at the commotion and now stood with jaw agape as I proudly displayed my bird.

I asked my host to put the bird in a basket and put a big rock on top to keep him secure. It was too late to cook them so I ate my mind-alteringly hot fish stew but with a content mind, thinking about the fowl I was going to eat for dinner the next night.

I woke up refreshed and optimistic. I gathered up my notebook, camera and tape recorder and headed out, but first stopped to gloat at my catch. To my dismay, it was gone. I shouted and my host came running over. “He has escaped in the night,” he explained by way of my interpreter. No way, I thought. The boulder was still on top of the basket. Someone stole my bird. When I voiced my opinion to him he shook his head and simply repeated the claim.

That night, I executed my hunt again, with equal success. This time, a larger group came out to watch my escapades and were equally surprised both by my technique and success. Again, I place the bird in the basket, this time adding another large rock on top.

The next morning, I woke with foreboding. I jumped out of bed and checked the basket. Stolen! I was pissed off. My host tried to placate me but I was having none of it. Arrogantly, I told him that I was going to complain to the head of the village. My host shook his head. He waved to me to follow him.

We walked toward the center of the village where the elder lived, ironically where the guinea fowl often congregated. Before we reached his compound, my host swooped down and picked up a guinea fowl with his hands! Of course I had tried this many times when I first got the notion to eat one, but ended up running around like a fool. He lifted the wing of the fowl and I could see a colored ribbon. “Each bird is owned by a family,” he told me. “There are no wild birds here.”

So I had captured a bird that was someone else’s property. I was confused as he had earlier told me they were wild animals. In the end, it turned out that he never thought I would be able to capture one, nor did he understand why I wanted to capture one. When I explained that, while I loved the fish stew, I wanted to expand my eating horizons, he laughed. “Just buy one from the neighbor and my daughter will cook it for you.”

So that afternoon I bought a fat guinea fowl and the daughter of my host prepared the most delicious ground-nut stew with him. To this day, I crave that stew. It was unlike anything I had before and better than anything I could have imagined. Although, it was still insanely spicy.

I felt a bit idiotic about the entire episode and it only reinforced to the folks in my village how odd I was. But it had one positive side-effect. People realized how little I understood about even the basics of their lives, and they began to be much less assumptive about my state of knowledge.

Note: A similar recipe is here.

ChittahChattah Quickies

Restaurants Turn Camera Shy [NYT] – While on one level this is a story about shifting norms, where an emerging behavior is deemed rude and disruptive. Where it is or not is another question, not really explored here. But there is at least one example of finding alternative ways to address the need rather than just banning what is considered wrong.

But rather than tell people they can’t shoot their food – the food they are so proud to eat that they need to share it immediately with everyone they know – he simply takes them back into his kitchen to shoot as the plates come out. “We’ll say, ‘That shot will look so much better on the marble table in our kitchen,’ ” Mr. Bouley said. “It’s like, here’s the sauce, here’s the plate. Snap it. We make it like an adventure for them instead of telling them no.” Mr. Bouley is setting up a computer system so that diners can get digital images of what they’ve eaten before they even get the check.

‘Friends’ Will Be There For You At Beijing’s Central Perk [NPR] – While in the west the show might be a somewhat-beloved artifact of a decade past, in another part of the world, the possibility for a different meaning is ripe. Perhaps, as the article suggests, this somehow embodies freedom that young Chinese are yearning for?

Tucked away on the sixth floor of a Beijing apartment block is a mini replica of the cafe, orange couch and all, whose owner Du Xin introduces himself by saying, “Everyone calls me ‘Gunther’ here.” Indeed, he is a Chinese version of cafe owner Gunther from the show, down to his giddy passion for Rachel (the character played by Jennifer Aniston). “I’m crazy about Friends,” Du says. “For me, it’s like a religion. It’s my life.” The extent of Du’s Friends obsession is clear on entry to Beijing’s Central Perk. The level of detail is scary: same window, same doorway. People sitting on the orange sofa are watching TV – reruns of Friends, naturally. The cafe only serves snacks mentioned in Friends, and the menus are even annotated.

The Role of Anecdotes in Science-Based Medicine – An imperfect but perhaps illustrative analogy to user research, about the relationship between stories and what some may call “proof.”

Here are two limiting factors in how anecdotes should be incorporated into medical evidence: The first is that anecdotes should be documented as carefully as possible. This is a common practice in scientific medicine, where anecdotes are called case reports (when reported individually) or a case series (when a few related anecdotes are reported). Case reports are anecdotal because they are retrospective and not controlled. But it can be helpful to relay a case where all the relevant information is carefully documented – the timeline of events, all treatments that were given, test results, exam findings, etc. This at least locks this information into place and prevents further distortion by memory. It also attempts to document as many confounding variables as possible. The second criterion for the proper use of anecdotes in scientific medicine is that they should be thought of as preliminary only – as a means of pointing the way to future research. They should never be considered as definitive or compelling by themselves. Any findings or conclusions suggested by anecdotal case reports need to be later verified by controlled prospective clinical studies.

Greg’s War Story: Biting off more than I can chew

Anthropologist Greg Cabrera spent 17 months in Afghanistan as an embedded academic with the military, supporting social science research and analysis as part of the Human Terrain System. In his second story here, he gets more than he expected out of meal with a local respondent.

In Afghanistan, hosts treat their guests as a gift from God. One of the principles of Pashtunwali – the way of the Pashtun – is hospitality, and a host must protect and treat his guests with the highest form of respect in order to preserve his cultural identity. An interview in Afghanistan is not a one-hour/gift-card-honorarium/thank-you-for-playing experience. Rather, it is a large chunk of your day, 4-5 cups of chai and maybe a meal if you are welcomed kind of interview. This was apparent from my first interview in Afghanistan.

After my interview with the local police chief in northern Kandahar, I was treated to a cultural meal with my interviewee and another soldier. The soldier worked closely as an advisor and assisted me with the introduction to the interview. The police chief was a proud host and he asked his men to prepare a special meal for us. As our interview came to a close, the men began rolling out mats, bringing in dishes, and placing large pieces of flat bread on the floor for us to consume. Typically, in this rural area, meals were eaten by hand from shared plates while sitting on the floor.

A typical meal consisted of rice, animal fat and a vegetable. Meat was consumed on occasion, usually to impress a powerful individual. This meal consisted of okra cooked in animal fat with rice and naan (or flat bread). “A nice treat,” I thought to myself, and a great opportunity to understand the cadences of daily life over a cultural meal.

The solider who was working with me raved about the okra, telling me how good it was and that the local police grew it in the back of the building in a small garden. Sweet!

Ready to dig in, I grabbed a piece of naan and ripped it into a smaller, user-friendly piece. I took one bite and immediately noticed a strange and somewhat hairy texture. Attempting to be as inconspicuous as possible, I moved my head to the side and pushed it out with my tongue. I examined it and noticed what appeared to be a lock of animal hair, dark brown and grey, either from a rodent or canine. In Afghan culture, dogs are considered unclean and are not welcomed inside the home. Although, part of me wished it was from a dog and not a rat. I pushed forward and avoided embarrassing my host. I moved on to the rice. The okra did not look very appetizing, so I tried to avoid eating it. However, my host asked why I was only eating rice, and the soldier next to me said I had to try it because it was so tasty. Oh alright! I dove in. I ate until I was full, and concurred that the okra tasted great in the goat fat.

Making small talk, I thanked the police chief and his men for the food and chai. We talked about security challenges for the district and government, and some next steps in increasing the security bubble through checkpoints and army forces. This was good information that I could use for my analysis. As we said our goodbyes and thanked our guest for his warm hospitality, I walked outside of his compound and the soldier pointed at the garden where the okra was being grown.

The small plot looked somewhat haphazard, not incredibly well maintained. I thought nothing of it until the soldier walked away and I saw a young man walk toward the okra, squat, and urinate on the small plot of okra. Great, he was urinating on the okra they were using for human consumption!

Perhaps, the most valuable lesson I learned was to stick to the rice. In this context, I was able to share firsthand the lived experience of Afghan policemen, and how they generated hospitality with whatever they have despite it forcing me to sacrifice my bowel system and notions of cleanliness in my home country. If I had raised the issue or appeared disgusted, I would have risked losing the relationship and opportunities for future interviews while offending my host in the process. I wonder at what point do researchers draw the line when cultural experiences make us too uncomfortable or even sick? How do researchers cope with experiences that test the limits of cultural sensitivity?

ChittahChattah Quickies

Innovations Like Instagram Are Tough for Large Companies [NYT] – Large companies try so many different ways to create subsets of their culture that is somehow more free. Ray Ozzie did it at Microsoft, through architecture and interior design. I do wonder how many leaders treat this like a cultural problem, though, and bring the appropriate solutions to bear.

Leica, Nikon, Canon, Pentax and Olympus didn’t build Instagram, either. Michael Hawley, who is on Kodak’s board, said the answer could be summed up in one word: culture. “It’s a little like asking why Hasbro didn’t do Farmville, or why McDonald’s didn’t start Whole Foods,” said Mr. Hawley. “Cultural patterns are pretty hard to escape once you get sucked into them. For instance, Apple and Google are diametrical opposites in so many ways, have all the skills, but neither of them did Instagram, either.” Neither could Facebook. If it could, it wouldn’t have paid $1 billion to acquire the small team of engineers and access to the program’s 30 million users. The challenge of creating something small and disruptive inside a large company is one that many face today.

Thou shalt not commit logical fallacies – A nice library of dark patterns for persuasion, manipulation, and bluster. Available in a printable poster, too.

A logical fallacy is usually what has happened when someone is wrong about something. It’s a flaw in reasoning. They’re like tricks or illusions of thought, and they’re often very sneakily used by politicians and the media to fool people. Don’t be fooled! This website and poster have been designed to help you identify and call out dodgy logic wherever it may raise its ugly, incoherent head. If you see someone committing a logical fallacy, link them to the relevant fallacy to school them in thinky awesomeness.

The Outsourced Life [NYT] – Arlie Hochschild with an insightful and slightly alarming perspective on the consequences of a service society. How does the increasing possibility for outsourcing (also: buying our way into something) change what we bring, expect, or get out of our lives?

The very ease with which we reach for market services may help prevent us from noticing the remarkable degree to which the market has come to dominate our very ideas about what can or should be for sale or rent, and who should be included in the dramatic cast – buyers, branders, sellers – that we imagine as part of our personal life. It may even prevent us from noticing how we devalue what we don’t or can’t buy. A prison cell upgrade can be purchased for $82 a day in Santa Ana, Calif., and for $8 solo drivers in Minneapolis can buy access to car pool lanes on public roadways. Earlier this year, officials at Santa Monica College attempted to allow students to buy spots in oversubscribed classes for $462 per course. Even more than what we wish for, the market alters how we wish. Wallet in hand, we focus in the market on the thing we buy. In the realm of services, this is an experience – the perfect wedding, the delicious “traditional” meal, the well-raised child, even the well-gestated baby.

As we outsource more of our private lives, we find it increasingly possible to outsource emotional attachment. A busy executive, for example, focuses on efficiency; his assistant tells me, “My boss outsources patience to me.” The wealthy employer of a household manager detaches herself from the act of writing personal Christmas-present labels. A love coach encourages clients to think of dating as “work,” and to be mindful of their R.O.I. – return on investment, of emotional energy, time and money. The grieving family member hires a Tombstone Butler to beautify a loved one’s burial site.

Snack makers’ “Red Caviar” Lay’s and “Mango-orange” Oreos appeal more to global tastes [Winnipeg Free Press] – Some possible acquisitions for my Museum of Foreign Groceries.

After noticing sales of Oreos were lagging in China during the summer, Kraft added a green tea ice cream flavour. The cookie combined a popular local flavour with the cooling imagery of ice cream. The green tea version sold well, and a year later, Kraft rolled out Oreos in flavours that are popular in Asians desserts – raspberry-and-blueberry and mango-and-orange…To get a better sense of what Russians like, PepsiCo employees travelled around the country to visit people in their homes and talk about what they eat day-to-day. That was a big task. Russia has nine time zones and spans 7,000 miles, with eating habits that vary by region. The findings were invaluable for executives. In the eastern part of the country, Pepsi found that fish is a big part of the diet. So it introduced “Crab” chips in 2006. It’s now the third most popular flavour in the country. A “Red Caviar” flavour does best in Moscow, where caviar is particularly popular. “Pickled Cucumber,” which piggybacks off of a traditional appetizer throughout Russia, was introduced last year and is already the fourth most popular flavour.

ChittahChattah Quickies

The Philosophy of Food Project [University of North Texas] – Food is definitely delightfully deep. This ambitious project covers such ground as Food Metaphysics, Gustatory Aesthetics and Food Identity. Rich fare. For a little mental sorbet, watch a meditative video of Andy Warhol eating a hamburger included on their Links page. Sit back, relax, and ponder the meaning of flat meats and reluctant ketchup.

The Philosophy of Food Project is housed in the Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies at the University of North Texas. It aims to disseminate information about the philosophical investigation of food; increase the visibility of food as a topic for philosophical research; serve as a resource for researchers, teachers, students, and the public; galvanize a community of philosophers working on food issues; and help raise the level of public discourse about food, agriculture, animals, and eating. The role of philosophy is to cut through the morass of contingent facts and conceptual muddle to tackle the most basic questions about food: What is it exactly? How do we know it is safe? What should we eat? How should food be distributed? What is good food? These are simple yet difficult questions because they involve philosophical questions about metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, and aesthetics. Other disciplinary approaches may touch on these questions concerning food but only philosophy addresses them explicitly.

Airline lets passengers choose seat partners based on social media profiles [Springwise] – A clever concept at first glance, and certainly a perfectly understandable, some might even say natural use of social media, right? But I question the utility here, and the ability to produce repeatable positive experiences in real life. Do they realize that on airplanes you are stuck next to that person for the next x-amount of hours? The mind reels with potential horror stories. I for one still want some part of IRL to be uninfluenced by social media. Maybe that’s particularly so for me, as a middle-aged presumed-introvert. I dunno… do others have a different response to this?

KLM are reportedly developing a similar service to enable passengers to choose who they sit next to on their flight. However, unlike MHBuddy, which operates solely through Facebook, KLM’s new Meet and Seat service will enable passengers to access their fellow travelers’ LinkedIn profiles as well. The Meet and Seat service will allow passengers to choose their in-flight neighbors based on their occupation, mutual interests and appearance. By connecting to LinkedIn and Facebook during online check-in, passengers will be able to pick their ideal seat buddy, although both parties will have to choose to participate in the service. KLM believe it will provide an opportunity for networking, though other reports suggest it’s more likely to be used as a matchmaking tool.

The Art of Video Games [Smithsonian] – I am seriously tempted to make a trip to DC to see this exhibit. It takes an art historical approach, considering the video game as a serious art form in it’s own right, both reflecting our culture and in many senses, helping to shape it.

The Art of Video Games is one of the first exhibitions to explore the forty-year evolution of video games as an artistic medium, with a focus on striking visual effects and the creative use of new technologies. The exhibition will feature some of the most influential artists and designers during five eras of game technology, from early pioneers to contemporary designers…Video games use images, actions, and player participation to tell stories and engage their audiences. In the same way as film, animation, and performance, they can be considered a compelling and influential form of narrative art. New technologies have allowed designers to create increasingly interactive and sophisticated game environments while staying grounded in traditional game types. The exhibition will feature eighty games through still images and video footage.

ChittahChattah Quickies

Volkswagen turns off Blackberry email after work hours [BBC News] – Technology changes work boundaries and work patterns. Will a technological solution work? The article suggests that they will stop people from receiving email after hours, but will they stop people from sending email after hours? Is the demand for after hours work coming through the email messages or are there other pressures? So many questions about this one!

Volkswagen has agreed to stop its Blackberry servers sending emails to some of its employees when they are off-shift. The carmaker confirmed it made the move earlier this year following complaints that staff’s work and home lives were becoming blurred. Under the arrangement servers stop routing emails 30 minutes after the end of employees’ shifts, and then start again 30 minutes before they return to work. “It’s bad for the individual worker’s performance being online and available 24-7. You do need downtime, you do need periods in which you can actually reflect on something without needing instantaneously to give a reaction,” said Will Hutton, chair of the Big Innovation Centre at The Work Foundation.

Manischewitz Creates Kosher Food for Gentiles [NYT] – Having grown up with the traditional meaning of the brand, I find this a bit challenging but am intrigued by the potential to reframe and expand their story.

“Instead of taking the older products we have out of the kosher aisle and forcing them into the main aisle, we’re creating new products that have a place in the main aisle,” said Alain Bankier. A new line of broths, for example, is being shelved in many supermarkets not with most Manischewitz items but rather in the soup aisle. A new line of Manischewitz gravies also will be stocked with other mainstream brands. Manischewitz ads traditionally have emphasized Judaism, showing yarmulke-wearing celebrants at, say, a Seder. But new ads, by Joseph Jacobs Advertising in New York, the Manischewitz agency for more than three decades, take a decidedly more secular approach. “Don’t miss the boat,” says a print ad for beef gravy, which shows it being poured from a sauce boat onto mashed potatoes – no shofar or Star of David in sight. New ads “make little if any reference to any Jewish holiday,” said Elie Rosenfeld, chief executive of Joseph Jacobs. “There’s a tagline we use, ‘Bringing families to the table since 1888,’ and we want to be part of that family with you whether it’s Rosh Hashana, Hanukkah or Easter.”

Samoa Sacrifices a Day for Its Future [NYT] – A massive change in infrastructure and function, revealing time (or at least our documentation of it) to be more arbitrary than fixed.

The Pacific island nation of Samoa and its even tinier neighbor Tokelau are skipping Friday this week, jumping westward in time across the international date line and into the shifting economic balance of the 21st century. The time change is meant to align Samoa with its Asian trading partners; it moves the islands’ work days further from the United States, which dominated its economy in the past. In this giant-step version of daylight saving time, the island’s 186,000 citizens, and the 1,500 who live in Tokelau, will go to sleep on Thursday and wake up on Saturday. The government has decreed that those who miss a day of work on Friday will be paid all the same.

Portable Cathedrals [Domus] – Dan Hill’s epic articulate review of the Nokia N9 isn’t a gadget review, it’s a (tl;dr) cultural critique of design, where culture is within the producer organizations as much as – if not more than – the consumer society.

Yet the skeuomorphic nonsense that incomprehensibly pervades apps like Apple’s own Contacts, Calendar, iBooks, GameCenter, Find My Friends et al-all awkward faux-leather, wood and paper stylings-is is of such questionable “taste” it threatens to damage the overall harmony of iOS with its discordant notes. You cannot derive value from the idle suggestion of such textures on screen; they are physical properties and should be experienced as such, or not at all. Yet Apple’s design team will not explore those physical properties, merely sublimating their desire for such qualities into a picture of leather, a picture of wood. It recalls Marcel Duchamp’s critique of ‘retinal art’ i.e. intended only to please the eye.

For a Corn Chip Maker, the New Spokesman Is the Product Itself [NYT] – The argot of advertising is hilarious and depressing all at once. Zany and authentic spokesbag?

At the Fiesta Bowl on Monday, the game’s sponsor, Tostitos, will have a new endorser – a “spokesbag” puppet in the form of a chip bag with arms, a mouth and a generous dollop of swagger – to humorously convey the message that it is the tortilla chip brand that enlivens social gatherings. The new life-of-the-party campaign resurrects the top-selling snack’s 1990s theme. ” ‘Tostitos Knows How to Party’ means we are returning to our roots,” said Janelle Anderson, the brand’s senior director for marketing. Tostitos returned to the ’90s theme after marketing research over the last year found that its customers wanted reasons to celebrate and have fun in economically lean times. Tostitos chose a zany character “to get the message across and make it authentic,” said Ms. Anderson. “We wanted something that was magnetic, fun and approachable.” The brand’s new advertising agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day, decided to “bring personality to the brand, and, in one of those rare cases, have the actual product be the actual spokesperson,” said Brett Craig, the group’s creative director for Tostitos. Working with Legacy Effects, a Los Angeles special effects company, the agency developed the hand-manipulated puppet with movable parts and special effects to convey energy, said Mr. Craig.

ChittahChattah Quickies

Locker Decorations Growing in Popularity in Middle Schools [NYTimes.com] – Yet another extremely specific product development area opening up. So many that emphasize the customizing (aesthetically, functionally) of environments (or products that represent environments): digital devices, closets, cars, lockers.

At middle schools across the country, metal lockers that were long considered decorated if they had photos of friends or the teen heartthrob of the moment – Shaun Cassidy years ago, Justin Bieber today – have suddenly become the latest frontier in nesting. Peek inside, and find lockers outfitted with miniature furry carpets, motion-sensor-equipped lamps that glow when the door opens, mirrors, decorative flowers, and magnetic wallpaper in floral and leopard-print patterns. It is hard to say whether retailers have merely capitalized on or actually created demand among girls for the accessories.

Related Photo Projects [The Adaption to My Generation] – A photographer who takes a picture of himself every day documents many of the other projects online where people are doing something similar.

Other ‘Passage of Time’ Portrait Projects (Roman Opalka, after every day of painting numbers in his studio, photographs his face. If only we could see documentation of the entire sequence) and Other Obsessive Photo Projects (Adam Seifer documents everything (not really) he eats.

A History of Pizza Hut’s New Product Releases, 2002-2042 [McSweeney’s] – Satirical design fiction, echoing both Idiocracy and Wired’s Postcards from the Future.

2002: Meat Lover’s Pizza
2007: Crust Craver’s Pizza
2012: Fat Person’s Pizza
2017: Overweight Woman’s Pizza
2022: Obese Child’s Pizza
2027: Fat Man’s Surprise
2032: Depressed Couple’s Sad Pizza
2037: Disgusting Pizza, for a Fat Person
2042: Just the Thing for a Sad Fat Guy

ChittahChattah Quickies

Overdone: Why are restaurant websites so horrifically bad? [Slate.com] – It’s true! Restaurant websites are terrible! Farhad Manjoo gives us a fun and interesting analysis of what has led to us having to endure music and pdfs and pointless flash dohickeys and long page-load times to get to things like the food and prices and what the restaurant looks like.

Over the last few weeks I’ve spent countless hours, now lost forever, plumbing the depths of restaurant Web hell. I also spoke to several industry experts about the reasons behind all these maliciously poorly designed pages. I heard several theories for why restaurant sites are so bad-that they can’t afford to pay for good designers, that they don’t understand what people want from a site, and that they don’t really care what’s on their site. But the best answer I found was this: Restaurant sites are the product of restaurant culture. These nightmarish websites were spawned by restaurateurs who mistakenly believe they can control the online world the same way they lord over a restaurant.

Put the muffin down

Interesting ritual-gizmo from Fresh Choice (an all-you-can-eat chain). At a buffet, how do you stop the staff from clearing your plates when you stand up to get more (or visit the restroom), especially if you dine alone? Here’s their solution, a two-sided laminated muffin card that you keep next to your plate.


I believe these are available as you arrive (at Fresh Choice, upon arrival you go through a cash line to pay and get your plate) although I didn’t see them. I saw the muffin cards around the restaurant as I walked back and forth to get more food.

While it does seem like a workable solution, it seems like a half-measure, shifting the service responsibility onto the customer. At a “nice” restaurant, the staff are attentive, but here you are doing self-service what with retrieving your own food, so maybe they figure why not give the diner another task to manage.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Eating alone: There’s nothing quite like sharing a meal with someone you love – yourself [The Denver Post] – [Fascinating how this person celebrates going against one strong cultural norm – she will happily eat alone at a restaurant in public – then turns right around and limits that new-found freedom by restraining her behavior in that context with a bunch more. Going against the grain is a tenuous act.] The meal itself is company enough for Vicky Uhland. "It's my reward at the end of the day," she says. "I like to have good service, have a nice drink. The atmosphere matters, too. It doesn't necessarily have to be quiet. But it has to be comfortable." Uhland sits at a table, not at the bar. "That's where I draw the line, the bar. A good girl alone at the bar? For some reason it's kind of sleazy." More red flags for Uhland: "I would never do Valentine's Day or any time I would look like a giant loser," she says. "If it was a really trendy restaurant I probably wouldn't go there on a Saturday."

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Data Visualization/Communication [Lauren Manning Design] – [Manning has done a lot of work to provide these instructive visualizations. The approaches privilege different aspects of the data. Which ones tell the strongest story? I am a fan of those that include actual images of the foods; they seem to require one layer less to decode. French Fry Consumption by Month is terrific!] Data sets vary tremendously, so one man’s brilliant solution can be another’s complete failure. Instead of seeing many excellent visualizations of all different data sets, what if you could see tons of visualizations of the same data set? Using a data set created from two years of meticulous life documenting, I visualized one point of data – food consumed – over forty ways. Exploring various methods, techniques, styles, degrees of complexity, degrees of additional context and many other elements, a true “apples to apples” comparison has emerged.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Facebook Policy Spurs Big Pharma to Rethink Social Media [Advertising Age] – [Beyond challenges such as authenticity, relevancy and voice, social media presence is a regulatory risk for brands in some industries.] Being forced to enable comments on its Facebook pages puts pharmaceutical companies at risk of running afoul of the current FDA regulations, even if it's just consumers making the comments. For instance, if a company has a branded page for an antacid, and a consumer comments that it helped lower his blood pressure as well, that's considered off-label promotion. "The Facebook decision is entirely consistent with what Facebook is designed to be — interactive. A Facebook page with the interactivity turned off is just a static web page residing on an interactive platform. And that isn't what Facebook is all about. It's time for regulated industry to step up to the plate and embrace the powerful tool that is real-time interactivity."
  • [from steve_portigal] Focus Groups That Look Like Play Groups [NYTimes.com] – [The lede, emphasizing focus groups, is misleading. The article explores a range of methods that market researchers are using. Maybe some novel ideas in here but also a good artifact of the popular press discourse about how we work.] Mr. Denari’s agency takes a different tack, interviewing consumers in their homes and leaving them with journals called “Little Truth Books” for a week or two. “It forces people to think a little more deeply than they normally would,” Mr. Denari said. When Ugly Mug Coffee wanted to retool its brand, Mr. Denari’s agency asked consumers to use the journals to draw family trees showing which family members were coffee drinkers. They were also asked to list some of the worst things about coffee, what their coffee “cut-off time” was and why they drank it at all. “The whole goal is the get to the heart,” Mr. Denari said. The research helped Ugly Mug create new packaging and expand distribution. [via @serota]
  • [from steve_portigal] A gelato-less June [Gelatobaby] – [Interesting to see how blogs can structure/support deliberate habit changes.] I wrote an essay pledging to fly less to reduce my environmental impact. (I’m actually only allowing myself one round-trip flight per month, compared to the 23 trips I took last year.) My friend Greg Lindsay, author of the new book Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next pointed out that my air miles were nothing compared to the footprint of my gelato habit. A United Nations report from last year noted that “agriculture accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use and 19% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.” I’m hoping that I can fill my gelato-less days with facts and information about where my dairy is coming from, how it’s produced, and if­if!­I might even come to love some dairy-free options. Suffice it to say, this is going to be an extremely enlightening 30 days. Especially since I have just discovered that the LA Weekly has embarked upon 30 Scoops in 30 Days project.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Pop-up dining takes residency atop major European landmarks [Springwise] – [Very inventive, experiential PR effort by Electrolux; seems ripped straight off the whiteboard of an ideation session.] The Cube is an aluminum-clad 140 square meter dining area including a 50 square meter terrace, soon to be based in the Parc du Cinquantenaire, Brussels. The highly portable restaurant — which can be transported by helicopter — plans to move from this Brussels base to a different European City every four to twelve weeks. Each location is selected to offer the 18 diners within The Cube a unique panoramic view of the surrounding area, whilst creating an eye catching new addition to the cityscape for onlookers on the outside. Lunches are available from EUR 150 and dinners from EUR 200, including wine and champagne. During dinner, the head chef — selected from the local area for a short residency in The Cube — takes center stage, with the Electrolux kitchen fully on show.
  • [from steve_portigal] New MFA in Products of Design [School of Visual Arts] – [I'm stoked for this new program and looking forward to my guest lecture spot] More and more we are recognizing that designed artifacts all live within dynamic systems, and that the creators and users of these artifacts must negotiate their value, purpose, and impact in an ever-changing world. We also recognize the limits of seeing designed objects as simply things; designers, who create multiples of their outputs, aren’t actually in the artifact business at all—they’re in the consequence business. And if we consider consequences first, above materiality or ergonomics or aesthetics, we are more likely to arrive at design offerings that are purposeful, thoughtful, sustainable, and wondrous. It is from this perspective that the Products of Design program addresses the needs and desires of the world at large. Through a combination of design thinking, design making, and design doing, we immerse our participants in hands-on physical exploration, rigorous investigation, and strategic intent.
  • [from steve_portigal] Take A Self-Portrait Every Day. Every Day. Every Day [Technologizer] – [This is brilliant: an application of technology that puts the astounding within reach of everyone. Leverages the "smart" aspect of smartphones to enable new activities!] If you’ve spent any time at all on the internet in the last few years, you’re probably responsible for one of the 18 million (now approaching 19 million) views of his video, mashing together years’ worth of self-portraits into a few minutes of thrashing hair and regular shaving. His name is Noah Kalina, he’s a New York-based photographer, and he has teamed up with some other people to create Everyday an iPhone app that makes it super-easy to create your own version of this video. The app thinks about everything, so you don’t have to. It helps you line your face up in roughly the same position every time you take a shot. It reminds you to take your photos on a regular basis. It saves them all for you, and when you’ve taken enough, it automatically turns them into a timelapse video, ready for posting online.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Honey buns sweeten life for Florida prisoners [St. Petersburg Times] – [Hollywood had convinced us that cigarettes – dangerous, tough, addictive – were the currency in prison. This article suggests a cultural shift with doughy sweet comfort food taking the place of jalihouse smokes] Inmates in the Florida prison system buy 270,000 honey buns a month. Across the state, they sell more than tobacco, envelopes and cans of Coke. And they're just as popular among Tampa Bay's county jails. In Pasco's Land O'Lakes Detention Center, they're outsold only by freeze-dried coffee and ramen noodles. Not only that, these honey buns — so puffy! — have taken on lives of their own among the criminal class: as currency for trades, as bribes for favors, as relievers for stress and substitutes for addiction. They've become birthday cakes, hooch wines, last meals — even ingredients in a massive tax fraud.

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